Ontario’s police watchdog has cleared five officers after a fatal gas station shooting in Burlington last September.
Four Halton Regional Police (HRPS) officers and one Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) officer were involved in the incident that left a man dead and two officers wounded.
Special Investigations Unit Interim Director Joseph Martino ruled that officers who shot at the suspect, referred to in the report as the Complainant, “were acting in the course of their lawful duties.”
“Regardless of which of the subject officers ultimately shot the Complainant, it is clear that none of the officers committed a criminal offence in relation to his death,” said Martino.
In the SIU report, Halton Regional Police communications says units were dispatched to assist OPP with a two-vehicle collision eastbound on the QEW just west of Burloak on the morning of Saturday September 22, 2018.
Officers were tasked with tracking down a 32-year-old driver alleged to have been involved in the collision who left the accident scene and made his way to the Esso near Appleby Line and Harvester Road.
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The communications report goes on to say a taxi cab driver called in and stated that the suspect driver was at the Esso Station.
Just after 5:00 a.m., officers deducted through conversations with civilian witnesses and witness officers that the suspect had entered the bathroom at the gas station.
Around 5:30 a.m., dispatchers were advised that the gas station was closed, and that pepper spray was being deployed under the washroom door.
At 5:36 a.m., communications were told that shots had been fired and police officers were hurt.
CCTV video in four locations inside and outside the store showed several of the officers converging on an alcove where the washroom was located in the store, with one officer brandishing a ballistic body shield and can of pepper spray, and another a sledgehammer, body shield, and a pry bar.
“At 5:36 a.m., the police officers in the area of the washroom door alcove, and the OPP police officers on the shop floor, suddenly rushed towards the store entrance door, ” the SIU report said, “The Complainant exited the washroom and ran in a westerly direction in front of a row of cooler fridges to his right.”
The report then describes an apparent exchange of gunfire which hit the suspect and a motionless suspect.
The SIU’s incident narrative says a black handgun was found on the floor “a few feet” from the suspect’s body which investigators determined was out of bullets.
“Paramedics entered the gas station to assess the Complainant but found no pulse. The Complainant was declared dead.”
A post-mortem examination later revealed that the suspect had six gunshot wounds, five to his left side with one wound perforating his lungs and heart, which were fatal.
The pathologist also found two bundles of paper money, totalling about $5,000 in the suspect’s pocket and a small flip cellular telephone.
Two HRPS officers were taken to hospital, after the shootout, for treatment of serious but non-life-threatening injuries.
In closing, Martino said he didn’t believe that any officer committed a criminal offence in relation to the shooting.
“The Complainant was the first to shoot, striking two police officers, and was armed with a handgun when he exited the washroom.” said Martino, “He continued to pose an imminent and serious risk of grievous harm or death to the officers when the officers returned fire. In the result, I find the officers’ actions proportionate, reasonably necessary and justifiable under law. No charges will issue and the file will be closed.”
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